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Songwriter duo Pine Hill Project comes to Sellersville Theater

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STORY WRITTEN BY DAVID W. WANNOP 
For 21st Century Media

Pine Hill Project combines two voices we’ve heard sing together before, namely, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell. Along with Dar Williams, Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell were in Cry Cry Cry, which was their late 1990’s collaboration. Shinwell and Kaplansky have known each other for more than 25 years. Today, Shinwell lives in Argentina, but Kaplansky still lives in New York City where she got her start after moving from her hometown of Chicago, where she started performing while still in high school.
Pine Hill Project is supported by producer Larry Campbell, known for his work as a side player with Bob Dylan, Levon Helm, B.B. King, K.D. Lang, Sheryl Crow, Buddy and Julie Miller, Willie Nelson, The Black Crowes, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Paul Simon, and many others. As a producer he worked with Levon Helm, Ollabelle, David Bromberg, Jorma Kaukonen and others.
Shindell and Kaplansky were part of the acoustic music revival that brought us Suzanne Vega, Shawn Colvin, John Gorka, The Roches, Eliza Gilkyson, Nancy Griffith, to name a few.
Kaplansky sent me several emails answering a couple questions at a time. She wrote. “Richard and I have done duets a lot in live shows. But this is a different style and vibe of music than either of us have really done. It’s very Americana, not really very folky, so that’s different.” Kaplansky admits that with Shindell living in Argentina it hasn’t been easy to work out details of the tour and other business. Of Shinwell she says, “He’s a great performer in every way. And I just love singing with him. So there’s a whole element of fun and chemistry that happens when I’m on stage with him.” Both are known for telling many stories between songs.
Kaplansky observed a common element that runs through the Pine Hill Project album. “Somehow the album ended up being mostly about relationships ending. We didn’t plan it, it just happened.” It’s not all happy accidents of continuity with Kaplansky. She surmised “Yeah, sometimes I’ll record a song or two and they just won’t work with the rest of the songs. That’s happened to me a few times. And a couple of times I’ve re-recorded the song and it works great on the next album.”
Her creative time is perhaps not when you might expect. “I think the best answer is morning. Which isn’t an environment! I’m at my most creative in the morning, that’s when I write.”
Kaplansky is enthusiastic about Larry Campbell’s involvement, stating, “I’ve known Larry for 30 years! We were both part of the NYC country music scene back then. Over the years he’s played on almost all of my albums as well as producing some of my tracks. Now he’s famous and rightly so. He did a brilliant job on this album, certainly as a player, but especially as a producer. His take on these songs was just perfect. And he’s also the greatest guy in the world.”
Kaplansky maintains enthusiasm for her own career too, explaining, “I think I’ll always want to perform. It’s my job. I’m sure at some point I’ll cut back. But I can’t see ever giving it up.” Kaplansky sometimes looks back at her prior job of clinical psychologist. She reflected, “I was a clinical psychologist for 5 years before going back to music. I loved my patients but music is what I always wanted to do. I’m so grateful I was able to come back to it.” It was various harmonizing jobs on the albums and shows of others that brought her to the attention of record labels and booking agents.
This is not to indicate that there is no psychology in play. Kaplansky revealed, “Psychology skills come into play all the time in my life. I learned so much about people and their internal conflicts and motivations. It all affects the way I see everything. It shows up in my writing, in my dealings with other people (especially), in my dealings with my family. Even though I don’t work as a psychologist anymore, I value what I learned so much.”
The two most interesting, lesser known points of the collaborators include Shinwell’s interest in theology and metaphysical concepts from Christianity to Buddhism. He has lent his voice to humanitarian causes. Kaplansky released an EP titled Kaplansky Sings Kaplansky which featured her father, famed University of Chicago mathematician Irving Kaplansky. This is a rare swing oriented recording by Lucy Kaplansky and includes duets with her father. After the tour she will return to New York to be with her husband and nine-year-old daughter in that balance of work and family life that so many are juggling.

IF YOU GO

What: The Pine Hill Project featuring Lucy Kaplansky and Richard Shindell.
Where: Sellersville Theater, 24 W Temple Ave., Sellersville.
When: Doors open at 7 p.m., concert is a 7:30 Sunday, Nov. 9.
Tickets: $29.50, $45
Info.: Call (215) 257-5808 or check www.st94.com.

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